Karolina Almgren Projekt: Live I Umeå

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I heard (four-fifths of) this distinctive quintet at the 2017 Ystad Sweden Festival, when it was an all-female affair with the excellent Finn Anni Elif Egecioglu on cello. Brief selections from that performance can be sampled on You Tube, together with a clip which has Almgren (on straight soprano, as always) and some of her cohorts on the present release in the company of distinguished Swedish saxophonist Håkan Broström. Recorded at a concert in Umeå, some 16 months after the Ystad gig, this intelligently arranged, beautifully executed and well-received programme offers almost an hour of rhythmically diverse chamber jazz of consistently distinctive and compelling character.

Egecioglu’s replacement on cello, the widely experienced Swedish multi-instrumentalist and ECM recording artist Svante Henryson, interacts well with bassist and fellow Swede Savbrant and stretches out some on, for example, Shorter’s Mahjong and the classic Swedish standard Ack Värmeland Du Sköna, also known as Dear Old Stockholm. The core of the quintet is supplied by the Almgren family: Karolina and Malin (whose own and well-regarded duo Sisters of Invention have two indie-pop, jazz-flavoured discs out on Oh Yeah Records) and their mother, Martina.

The three evince a special dynamic empathy, with the two-drum sets, percussion and glockenspiel used to spaciously textured rather than over-layered effect. But if silence is accorded fructifying impact, enfolding as it does the pellucid, dance-touched solo soprano meditation that is the opening Uti Vår Hage, there is plenty of rhythmic potency here, exemplified by the freshly turned and bouncing grooves in the drum work-out on Visa Efter Torn Erik and the exhilarating drive brought to the strongly swinging Sista Låten.

The poised, in part pedal-point reading of Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood, which features a luminously etched soprano line and contemplative figures from the cliché-free Sabrant, can stand comparison with the classic Coltrane/Ellington version of the early 1960s; Shorter’s Mahjong and the standard Here’s That Rainy Day are also given captivating readings. Striking as these tracks are, the heart of this music lies in the leader’s own compositions, inspired in part by a trip to Visby in Gotland. The spare yet rhythmically enticing eloquence with which Almgren and her estimable companions develop her folkish motifs conjures aural poetry of unerring clarity and conviction, never overplayed or over-developed. A magical release, this.

Discography
Uti Vår Hage; Visby; Mahjong; In A Sentimental Mood; Visa Efter Torn Erik; Ack Värmland Du Sköna; Havet; Here’s That Rainy Day; Sista Låten; Close (57.13)
Almgren (ss); Svante Henryson (clo); Isa Savbrant (b); Martina Almgren (d, pc); Malin Almgren (d, glockenspiel). Umeå, 22 November 2018.
Oh Yeah Records OYRO15